Just to bring you up to date on our first episode about Michelangelo, here are the highlights: spoiled capicola, snowmen and Pope Tag. Now that you’re caught up, we can go to Rome.
Rome in 1496 was, surprisingly, much like it is today, except with less crumbling, run-down 500-year-old buildings, fewer cars, no reality TV shows, etc. It was into this world that Michelangelo, at the age of 21, entered in order to continue his sculpting career, because “Communication Design Management Specialization” at Devry University hadn’t been invented yet. It was here, at the age of 24, that he finished his first great masterpiece, a “pieta” (pizza) consisting of pepperoni, crumbled bacon, gorgonzola cheese, and just a little oregano in the sauce. As he was eating this, he was also working on a sculpture of the Virgin Mary grieving over the body of Jesus, which, coincidentally, was also called a “pieta”. It was deemed by local sculpture reviewers as “A revelation of all the potentialities and force of the art of sculpture. See it with someone you love. Marble-ous! Five stars. (check out more of my reviews at pietariffic.com.)” It currently resides at St. Peter’s Basilica, right across the street from Pizzeria Tavola Calda, which has great, cheap food. If they like you, the owners give you a free piece of cake.
In 1499, Michelangelo returned to Florence where he was asked by the Guild of Wool to create an immense, 10-foot tall statue of a stocking hat, I suppose as some sort of promotional stunt. Instead, Michelangelo offered to complete one of their 40-year-old unfinished projects depicting David as a symbol of Florentine freedom, which apparently has something to do with unashamed, gigantic nudity. This, his most famous work, was originally to be installed on the gable of the Florence Cathedral, but, since no one could find an industrial-grade military helicopter to lift it there, it was decided it would be easier to place it in the Piazza della Signoria (“Della’s Signature Pizza”) and sell small, plastic versions of it in a gift shop. This statue established Michelangelo as an artist of great skill and artistic insight, and brought him more prestigious commissions, offers, and an appearance on The Today Show, where he taught Natalie Morales how to sculpt a bust of Al Roker out of a block of cheese. “David” is now located in the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, or “Gallery of Fire Knowledge”, where its nude figure sustains approximately 15,000 sniggers, titters, and embarrassed whispers from school boys each year.
Michelangelo returned to Rome in 1505 at the invitation of Pope “Orange” Julius II, where he was commissioned to build a tomb for the Pope, consisting of a three-story building with 40 statues and 100 of those wacky inflatable tube guys dressed as archbishops. He was given a timeline of 5 years because I guess that’s when the Pope was planning to off himself and fall into his tomb. But, due to interruptions including other projects and more Today Show appearances, it took over 40 years to complete, probably much to the relief of the Pope, but not his inheritors, who had caught a peek at his substantial life insurance policy. Many of the 40 statues completed for the tomb are now located in other museums so that school children in those cities can also be forced to look at culture on their field trips. One of these interruptions was to become an epic work of such beauty, scope and endurance that it can hardly be described without saving it for the next installment, so I guess that’s what we’re going to do.